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Diné photographer recognized for pandemic work

Diné photographer recognized for pandemic work


Navajo Times photographer Sharon Chischilly has received a grant from Italian-Cuban photographer Manuello Paganelli recognizing her work documenting the COVID-19 pandemic on the Navajo Nation.

Chischilly’s photos were published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Navajo Times and elsewhere.

Paganelli, whose past work explores Cuban communities and other little-known subcultures such as Black cowboys, offers a small grant each year to encourage an up-and-coming photographer. This year he wanted to highlight a Native American photographer, and Chischilly was suggested by Jennifer Schlesinger, owner/curator of Obscura Gallery in Santa Fe.

“From there I read a New York Times article and saw the work she has been doing within her Native community on the heavy toll COVID-19 has taken on them,” Paganelli wrote in his justification for the grant. “I was quite impressed by the maturity, seriousness and depth of her work.”

Chischilly, a junior at the University of New Mexico and a photojournalist for the school’s Daily Lobo newspaper in addition to her full-time job at the Navajo Times, said the $500 grant means a lot to her.

“I was a little bit surprised,” she said. “I didn’t think anyone cared about what I was doing … “Photographers generally are really competitive and not very supportive of each other,” she said, “so for this guy to give me money just because he likes my work and wants me to continue, it means a lot.”

Chischilly, who is Tsé Nahabilnii born for Tó Dik’ózhi, said she will use the money to start saving for a second camera. “My camera’s been through a lot,” she said. “I need a backup in case it stops working or something.”

About The Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth was the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation, until her retirement on May 31, 2021. Her other beats included agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.”


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